Cherry Tomato Jam for Cheese

With the arrival of September came the departure of the unwelcome oppressive humidity July and August brought this year. And in the last twenty four hours I have been transformed into one of those slightly annoying giddy school girls. Not because September is the official start of the Pumpkin Latte season or because it’s my birthday month or because within the next couple of weeks the apple orchards will have an abundance of fruit to be harvested from its’ trees or because the astronomical start to fall will soon arrive or because the cooler night air will remind me of what Wisconsin felt like during my childhood family vacations or because in a few short weeks I will be breathing in the Colorado mountain air and hiking on trails ablaze with the golden leaves of aspens set against an even deeper blue sky. Although each of those reasons on their own merit are enough to cause me to be heedlessly dizzy, their collective compounding effects have me feeling so deliriously punch-drunk I should probably not get behind the wheel of a car anytime soon. If there was ever a month I wish could be endlessly repeated, it would be September.

Besides champagne grapes, prune plums and apples, September is the month where farmer’s markets and gardens are overflowing with all sorts of intensely flavorful vine ripened tomatoes. If there are any regrets during this month, it’s that I didn’t plant any tomatoes. There are a litany of reasons (or rather I should say excuses) why my kitchen will not reap the benefits of backyard home-grown tomatoes. Suffice to say tomato eating squirrels are one of my least favorite creatures on the planet and there seems to be a disproportionate number of them living in my neighborhood. Thankfully there are more than enough farms and gardens offering up their tomato bounties to those of us who need to overdose ourselves on those juicy, deeply flavorful summer tomatoes in order to get through the tomato famine months ahead. A tomato in September is not the same ‘fruit’ as the ones sold or served in January. They just aren’t. At least for those of us who live in the midwest or northeast. And anyone who orders a Caprese Salad in a restaurant from late October to June, well I would seriously question whether their taste buds are in good working order.
The last time I made a Tomato Jam it was as the condiment for a Savory Bread Pudding. That one was made with heirloom tomatoes, a lemon, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and some water. While browsing through one of my cookbooks, I came across a recipe for a Cherry Tomato Jam for Cheese. This one being made with cherry (or grape) tomatoes, granulated sugar, lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and finely chopped fresh rosemary. My culinary knowledge must be slipping as I had never thought to serve a Tomato Jam with cheese before. Clearly, as I have now discovered, I had been missing out.
If you have never made jam before, nothing is easier than making a Tomato Jam, especially this one. This particular Tomato Jam can be made with cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or a combination of the both. You could even make it with baby heirloom tomatoes. 
The tomatoes are first roasted on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven before they are cooked in heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove. While the inspiration recipe called for roasting them to remove their skins, I choose to keep the skins on to give a little more texture to the finished jam.
Initially the roasted tomatoes and granulated sugar are cooked in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat (to allow the sugar to melt). Once the sugar melts the heat is increased to medium-high causing the mixture to come to a rapid boil. Stirring frequently, the tomato sugar mixture is boiled for 5 to 7 minutes or until it becomes thick and syrupy. My cooking time was closer to 7 minutes.
As soon as the tomato sugar mixture reaches the desired consistency it is removed from the heat. The lemon zest, fresh squeezed lemon juice and chopped rosemary are then stirred in. The original recipe called for 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary, both of which I used. While the lemon flavor from the zest and juice is not ‘too’ much, I would recommend you begin by adding 2 Tablespoons and tasting before adding the third tablespoon. Once the jam began to cool slightly, I decided there wasn’t enough of a rosemary presence so I added a tad more (thus my recommendation below to use a generous 1/2 teaspoon). You won’t be sorry about being generous with the rosemary as it is the perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of the tomatoes and tartness of the lemon flavor.
I decided to use two mini (5.2 ounce capacity) Weck canning jars instead of putting all of the Tomato Jam into a single jar. This gave me the option of giving one away as a gift (although after tasting it, I am selfishly holding onto to both jars).
The slightly cooled jars are stored in the refrigerator. 
There are any number of cheeses you could serve the Tomato Jam with. Some of the options include a creamy goat cheese, a double creme gouda, a fresh Robiola, and/or an aged Pecorino. 
I am not exaggerating when I say your next cocktail party, the one where you put together a small cheese platter as an appetizer (or for dessert), needs to have this Tomato Jam. Yes, I know the Fig Jam is really popular these days (and yes, it really is good), but this savory/sweet tomato jam will set your cheese platter apart from all of the others your friends and family have been noshing on for years. However while having a stellar cheese tray has a number of merits, the experience of eating this jam with cheese will be nothing short of a ‘in the best of ways a’ life-changing, rock your world one’. 
If by chance you have a garden full of cherry or grape tomatoes, well you are luckier than the rest of us who either have to rely on tomato handouts from our friends or have to schlep over to a farm stand or farmer’s market (because sometimes the ones at grocery stores aren’t as flavorful) to buy them.

Cherry Tomato Jam for Cheese (a slightly revised version of the Cherry Tomato Jam for Cheese recipe as shared in the cookbook: The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 90 recipes).

2 cups (340 g) cherry or grape tomatoes (or a mix of the two), cut in half
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 -3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
generous 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Serving: Along with thin cheese crackers serve with a creamy goat cheese, a double creme gouda, a fresh Robiola, and/or an aged Pecorino.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Place the cut tomatoes halves on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes to loose the skins.
3. Remove tomatoes from oven and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add sugar.
4. Over medium heat gently melt sugar, then bring to a boil and cook (boiling rapidly) for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Notes: Stir frequently. My cooking time was 7 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and add lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped rosemary.
6. Transfer tomato jam to clean, sterilized jars. Seal well. When cool, place jam in the refrigerator.
7. The tomato jam can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long!

English Garden Views at the Chicago Botanic Garden

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